Which discipline techniques work best for toddlers? Behavior & Discipline

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Mom talking to son outside.
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There's no one-size-fits-all approach to discipline. See what strategies an expert recommends and what other moms find useful for teaching toddlers positive behavior.

Distraction Is Your Best Bet

"A toddler's attention span is very short, so keep time-outs short (30 seconds to one minute), praise and clap for good behavior, maintain a stern voice for behavior that needs to be stopped, and prevent difficulties by making sure your toddler has a very consistent schedule and knows what's coming in his day. For example, snack comes after stories, playground come after snack, lunch comes after playground, nap comes after lunch. Toddlers thrive on routine." -- Elena Mikalsen, PhD, Mikalsen Psychological Services, San Antonio, TX

Consistency Is Key

"I find that it helps to explain why the child got in trouble and to give examples of good behavior. Part of consistency is doing what you say you are going to do, so follow through with any punishments you tell them you'll give."

Every Child Is Different

"My oldest responded best to time-outs but my youngest responds best to losing privileges. I suggest trying different approaches until you find what your child responds to best."

Set Clear Boundaries

"We're always clear about what's expected in certain situations. For example, when we're eating at a restaurant, he knows to stay in his seat until we're finished. But if he tries to crawl out or gets loud, one of us will take him outside until he can calm down."

Praise Good Behavior

"I tell my daughter how proud it makes me when she has good manners or follows the rules. When she isn't listening, I calmly tell her we need to follow the rules or watch our manners. Then I tell her specifically which rule or manner I expect her to work on."

Reward Positive Behavior

"Try rewarding positive behavior with a fuzzy craft pompon jar or sticker chart. When you catch him being good, put a pompon in the jar, and when the jar gets full, he's earned his favorite activity."

Set Him Up for Success

"We look for ways to prevent issues -- then we move on to redirection and distraction. And, last but not least, we try to use logical consequences."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.